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The Situation Room

News/Business. Wolf Blitzer. Traditional reporting and online resources update international news. New.

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Us 18, Ntsb 11, North Korea 10, Obama 9, Cnn 8, America 6, New York 6, U.s. 5, Asia 4, China 4, Harrison 4, New York City 4, United States 3, Jeanne Moos 3, Francis 3, Jim Acosta 3, Stacy 3, Newman 3, Paul Walker 3, Nestle 3,
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  CNN    The Situation Room    News/Business. Wolf Blitzer. Traditional reporting  
   and online resources update international news. New.  

    December 2, 2013
    2:00 - 3:31pm PST  

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off the field tonight! holy cow! >> that's the sound of popping blood vessels from a sports announcer. i have seen that like 20 times and i still can't believe it. the missed field goal that became the miracle end to the iron bowl for the ages. check out our show page. that's all for "the lead." i'm john berman filling in for jake tapper. i turn you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." happening now, breaking news. deadly speed. investigators have just revealed that the train that crashed in new york city was traveling almost three times faster than it should have been but why? there's an urgent search for answers. we will talk to the person leading the investigation. coerced confession. an elderly american veteran detained in north korea apologizing for alleged killings and crimes during the korean war. is this real or is it simply
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propaganda? and underwater miracle. a man spends two days trapped in a sunken boat and lives to tell about it. how did he survive? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we are following breaking news in the investigation of that train derailment in new york that killed four people and injured dozens. the national transportation safety board has just revealed the metro north train was traveling at 82 miles an hour when it derailed, the speed limit for that stretch of track in that curve, 30 miles an hour. we have new video of the wreck just in from the ntsb. you can see the difficult operation under way at the crash site right now. crews are working to turn upright the train cars that flipped and remove them along with other cars that derailed. you can see from the air what a massive operation investigators are now facing. cnn national correspondent jason carroll is in yonkers, new york, where the ntsb just briefed the
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news media. tell our viewers what the investigators said. >> reporter: well, a lot of information coming out. first we should tell you that according to the data recorders, that were recovered from the trains, first of all, the track seemed to check out okay. the signaling system seemed to be checking out as well. what is most disturbing to officials here is the speed at which the train was traveling, 82 miles an hour going into that type curve. also, the data recorder revealing that six seconds before the train came to a stop, the throttle was released. five seconds before the train came to a stop, the brakes were applied. simply not enough time to stop those trains from derailing. >> the train was traveling at approximately 82 miles per hour as it went into a 30 mile an hour curve. >> six seconds from 80 miles an hour to zero is amazingly fast, troublingly, dangerously fast,
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and shows that something, something was very, very wrong. >> reporter: wolf, as you were saying, the speed should have been reduced to 30 miles an hour or so before heading into that tight curve. it is still too early to tell if this was mechanical error or if this was human error. the locomotive engineer identified by the union as william rockefeller jr. is a 20-year veteran, no disciplinary actions to speak of so far. once again, it could take months, though, before we have a final cause as to what caused these trains to derail. wolf? >> jason carroll with the latest from yonkers just outside new york, thank you. this is the latest in a series of deadly train wrecks and for some of the worst, investigators didn't have to probe very far to find the cause. cnn's tom foreman is working this part of the story for us. what are you finding out? >> early reports about possible causes for this train crash in the bronx raises the specter of twin problems, as jason alluded to, which combined to produce
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horrific results on railways. human error and/or equipment failures. this stunning video of a passenger train crash in spain last summer becomes even more so when you hear what authorities have found. spanish officials now indicate the train was racing at well over 100 miles an hour, more than twice the posted limit. 79 people died when it flew off the tracks and 170 others were injured. >> everyone was just covered in their own blood and occasionally the blood of others. it was gruesome, to say the least. >> reporter: but spanish authorities are also investigating whether the train company should have installed better safety systems to compensate for an engineer running too fast. after all, that same month in canada, at least 42 people were killed when officials say a series of human errors sent a freight train full of oil barreling into a town, where it crashed and exploded.
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>> another big bang came out and i see the ball of fire just at my back, going all across the street. and i started running, you know? >> reporter: on it goes. in connecticut last may, a train derailed and collided with another, injuring more than 70 people. in washington, d.c., in 2009, a subway train plowed into another, killing nine people and injuring dozens. and in california in 2008, a commuter carrier slammed into a freight train, killing 25 people and injuring more than 100. and in all of these cases, either human error, equipment failure or both played a role. here is what it all comes down to. in 2012, there were more than 1400 train collisions and derailments in the united states, some big, some rather small. this does not count those involving cars or trucks, vehicles they might hit. this is just train accidents. the single biggest cause for
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these accidents is trouble with the rails. just behind that, more than 500 times, humans made mistakes and that's what was to blame. we'll have to see what happens with this accident. certainly that's one of the things they must look at. >> they certainly have to look at that. thanks very much. let's get a little more now on this crash in new york city. joining us is earl wayner of the national transportation safety board. he's leading this investigation. thanks very much for coming in. >> thank you. good evening, wolf. >> thank you. you indicated that the train was going 82 miles an hour in this dangerous curve, it shouldn't have been going more than 30 miles an hour. so the high speed was definitely the cause of this crash, right? >> well, this is preliminary information. we just read out the event recorders today. but we had event recorders in the front of the train as well as in the locomotive and they both gave us consistent numbers.
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>> 82 miles an hour, so there's no way that curve could have handled a train coming 82 miles an hour, so the question is, was there brake failure or was this human error. those are the two main sources that you're looking at in your investigation, right? >> yes. we don't know whether it was human error or mechanical failure. that of course is the reason why we will be continuing this investigation with a great deal of intensity. but that's what we want to find out. >> but the brakes were working fine in all the previous stops. it started in poughkeepsie and was making its way down the hudson river towards new york city and the brakes worked fine, according to the data recorders, on all the previous stops, is that right? >> well, we are going to look at that data more closely, but yes, the train made nine stops and there was no reporting of any braking anomalies. so that will be looked at in great detail. >> from the information that you
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have and we know this is preliminary in your investigation, but those data recorders do provide a wealth of information, for how long was that train going at 80 or 82 miles an hour? >> we don't at the moment -- i haven't gotten information on that. we do know that two minutes before the curve, the train was going at 60 miles per hour and had accelerated then up to 82 prior to entering the curve. >> so -- >> it was under power. >> you have already interviewed the engineer, correct? >> we have begun the interview process with the engineer. we have not completed that. that will probably take a couple of days yet. >> could you share some of what the engineer is saying, why this train was apparently accelerating from 60 to 82 miles an hour going into this very dangerous curve? >> well, we haven't finished the interviews with the other three crew members, so at this point,
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we are not releasing any of the interview information until all of the interviews have been conducted. >> is there any reason to believe those brakes might have been tampered with? >> at this point, there's no reason to believe that there was any sabotage in the brakes or the equipment or the trackage. >> what are you learning from the surveillance video that you've obtained showing this crash? >> well, the surveillance video came from a bridge nearby, but it's a small part of the image, so the video is not very high quality. we've sent it back to the laboratories in washington, d.c. to see if the images can be enhanced. >> can you describe, though, in rough terms, what you have seen? >> i haven't personally seen the video. i've just had it described to me. no, i can't say that i've seen it. >> can you tell us how it was described to you? >> well, what was described was
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that they saw some flashes as the train hit the third rail, which was powered at that time, so there was flashes followed by a cloud of dust. but again, it was a fairly small part of a large image so the enhancement hopefully will give us the opportunity to see a little better. >> i'm pretty amazed, and i have said this often, that in this day and age, there are no video cameras on these trains. why is that? >> well, the ntsb has made recommendations that there are video cameras generally on forward-facing locomotives, but we have had recommendations that the ntsb has said for inward-facing video cameras as well. >> why doesn't that happen? >> well, not everything that the ntsb recommends does the industry do. so we keep emphasizing the need
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and hope that the need's recognized. >> i spoke earlier in the day with peter gulles, formerly with the ntsb. he says the unions won't allow these cameras to take a look and see what the engineers are doing. >> there is some reluctance on the part of the engineers, labor organizations. that's correct. >> is there any way to get around that, or is it just that the ntsb, they make a recommendation for video cameras but are not allowed to be used because the unions block it? is that what you're saying? >> the industry has to adopt our recommendations. the ntsb's recommendations are simply that, recommendations. >> did you check to see if the engineer in this particular case, the staff, had enough rest going into this early morning train ride? >> we don't have the work
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history at the moment. we will be developing what we call a 72-hour timeline so that we have a good understanding of what sort of activities preceded this accident. that's a part of our normal investigation. >> and they're not allowed to use cell phones or they can't start texting while they're conducting this train operation, is that right? >> well, the cell phone has b n been -- we have -- the authorities have possession of the cell phone, the data in the cell phone is being analyzed and the forensic data will be provided to us. >> you don't have the results if somebody was on the phone, someone was texting during those critical seconds when this train derailed? >> wolf, you have to realize, we have only been one full day on scene here. so we're gathering information as fast as we can.
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we have been working very hard to release the tracks back to metro north because we realize how critical this arterial is in terms of transportation in this region. >> but with all due respect -- >> the tracks were released back this afternoon. >> with all due respect, i know you have a huge job there, but how long does it take to take a look at someone's cell phone and see if that person was texting or talking on the phone during these critical seconds leading up to this derailment? that shouldn't take very long to get that kind of information, right? >> it doesn't necessarily take very long to get one piece of information, but there's a lot of information that has to be gathered, and the focus up to this point has been to get the rail line back in operation again. because of the criticality in this part of the country, this city. >> another thing that often disturbs me, those four people who were killed, i think all of them were killed, they were thrown out of their seats,
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thrown out of the train through the shattered glass, and wound up outside. there's no seat belts on these trains and i wonder if there are seat belts on cars, seat belts on planes, why aren't there seat belts on these trains? >> well, we certainly have supported seat belts on automobiles, trucks and buses. seat belts on trains has not really been an issue up to this point. we have not developed a position on it. >> if there were seat belts, would those four people, they would have had a chance of surviving this, right? they wouldn't have been thrown out of those cars. >> the three people -- three of the people who died, yes, were thrown out of the car. the cars underwent some pretty violent motions. >> are you recommending seat belts or does the ntsb not recommend seat belts?
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>> i would guess that one of the things we'll be looking at during the investigation would be what contribution seat belts might have made to the survivability. we do have a team that is focused on the survivability aspects. >> when do you think -- this is my final question and you have been generous with your time, i know you have a lot going on -- we'll get the results of your investigation on why this train was going 82 miles an hour, going into this very dangerous curve? >> well, the investigation will go through several phases. we're at the fact gathering phase on scene. as soon as -- this will take a week to ten days. then the fact gathering moves to washington, d.c. followed by analysis of those facts. we expect it will take a year or more before we have a probable cause and recommendations aimed at preventing this sort of accident again.
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>> sir, good luck to you and all your colleagues. we're counting on you to make our trains safe all across the country. millions of people are depending on your recommendations. we appreciate your joining us. thank you. >> thank you. later this hour, survivors emotional stories. we will hear from a doctor treating some of the injured who suffered life-changing injuries. also, did the white house meet its deadline to fix the obama care website? dr. sanjay gupta is here to explain how health insurance alone could make people actually even less healthy if they're not taking care of themselves. an american veteran of the korean war apologizing from inside north korea, where he's now being detained. was his confession of crimes coerced? stay with us. twins. i didn't see them coming.
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after weeks in critical condition, the white house now says the troubled obama care website finally is working as it was intended to, but does that mean it is now fixed? let's go to our senior white house correspondent, jim acosta. what are they saying about healthcare.gov on this day, jim? >> reporter: at times it seemed like cybermonday for healthcare.gov as the retooled obama care website saw a crush of online shoppers, but the website placed many of them in what seemed like a virtual waiting room. after a frantic effort to create a new and improved healthcare.gov, the white house appeared to declare victory, sort of. >> the president believes that the site has been significantly improved. but the work is not done. >> reporter: case in point, as a whopping 800,000 visitors are estimated to surge on to the site today, many found not an error message but a new queueing
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system that allows users to leave an e-mail address so they can be contacted later with a better time to log on. >> is today sort of a cybermonday for healthcare.gov? is that going to be acceptable if that's the norm for a lot of people for an extended period of time? >> what i think is important to note is that the queueing system, the more sophisticated improved queueing system, is a feature designed to improve the user experience. >> it has its good days and bad days. >> reporter: obama care enrollment assistant edwardo, who is working to sign people up in virginia, said the site is still too slow. >> today, we thought it was going to be better, but we already encountered some issues at this location where the website was not working properly. >> reporter: another problem, insurers say some of the enrollment files they're receiving from healthcare.gov still contain missing or inaccurate information. >> what we want to avoid is a situation where people think they're enrolled but their application has not been processed and their coverage
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hasn't actually begun, and they don't find that out until they show up to the doctor's office. >> reporter: republicans complained it will be hard to tell if obama care is ever fixed. >> it's about getting good information and of course, it's harder when the administration decides to cover this up and mislead and to change the subject because they seem very good at doing it. >> reporter: now, as for those bad enrollment files that healthcare.gov appear to be sending to the insurance companies, administration officials say they have fixed many of the bugs causing that problem but expect that issue and other issues to come up at the other obama care hearings that are scheduled up on capitol hill this week. house speaker john boehner says there are four, count them, four more obama care hearings scheduled for this week. >> we'll have coverage of course of all of those hearings. thanks very much, jim acosta. even with all the problems plaguing obama care, if they are eventually solved, there is still some research out there suggesting that having health insurance alone won't make americans healthier and in fact, in some cases, could do the
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opposite. let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, dr. sanjay gupta, who wrote a very provocative article on our website today, cnn.com. sanjay, you say the real question with obama care is will it make us healthier and you're a little skeptical. explain what's going on. >> well, first, i think that should be the goal overarching this. if you look back on this period in our history 100 years from now and people say did the actions at this time make america a healthier place. i don't think there's evidence of that. now, i will preface by saying i think insurance is a very important thing. it's a good thing and i think access to that insurance which has been driving a lot of what we have been talking about is obviously very important. but there's not a lot of evidence to show that health insurance makes people healthier. there was this interesting study done in oregon a few years ago, they had a group of people who recently went on medicaid and they compared them to a group of people who were not on medicaid but very similar people, and they found that over time, the
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people who were on medicaid did see their doctor more often, they did get more care, but when they started to actually measure things in terms of their health, they couldn't find a lot of evidence that they were healthier than people who were uninsured. not to say that you shouldn't have insurance but it's to say that this idea of becoming healthier is probably much more dependent on us as individuals than a system that doles out health care insurance. >> if we eat properly, exercise, take good care of ourselves. you even point out in the article, this is a real intriguing point, in some cases, you think health insurance could be counterproductive. explain what you mean by that. >> well, this is something that is known by the economists as the moral hazard. it's a bit of an obscure concept but it's this idea, there was a study done on men, for example, who recently got medicare insurance but had not had insurance before that for some time, and they found that there were groups of men who recently became insured who became less
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likely to exercise, more likely to smoke, more likely to drink regularly. it is not entirely clear why, but what the moral hazard -- the idea is that once someone has insurance, they may become a little more reckless with regard to the health promoting behaviors. certainly it doesn't happen to everybody. it seemed to happen to men more than women. but that is of concern. but the larger issue that i was really trying to get at in this op-ed was if we are trying to make america a more healthy place in the future, health insurance alone's not going to get us there. so we shouldn't think of that as sort of the end point by any means, and forget the personal responsibility that we all have. >> very quickly, even if you just exercise, as you point out, 30 minutes a day, that could save your life. >> if we have all americans exercise 30 minutes a day, we can start -- i know you exercise, i like to exercise, every day, we do this, we can cut down heart attacks and strokes by a third in this country. a third. there is nothing else that we have been talking about that would come close to making that sort of impact.
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all we're asking for is 30 minutes a day. we doctors tell patients to always eat right every time they leave the doctor's office. most people don't even know what that means exactly. really sound nutritional counseling, not immediately giving out pills but rather thinking of food as medicine, these things make a difference, a difference that i think will last for a very long time. >> on a totally unrelated matter, while i have you, you have seen these reports about a man who was taken off a us airways flight from austin to phoenix over concerns that he might have tuberculosis. how concerned should the other passengers on that flight be that they could be at risk for getting tb? >> we have been following this story closely, wolf. first, we should say this passenger in question, it's not confirmed that he in fact had tb at all. there was an initial test that came back negative, but then another test that came back positive. now they're doing more confirmation tests. so stay tuned on what happens with that. but i think the risk to the
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other passengers appears to be pretty low for a couple of reasons. one is it appears this passenger was not coughing, as simple as that sounds, actually coughing is the way the bacteria gets into the air and other people could become infected. also, the length of exposure. this was around a two-hour flight. until you get into flights that are over four hours, for example, the concern is really quite low. so while obviously it's a frightening thing, we're hearing from people at the centers for disease control that the other passengers really don't even need to be tested, because their risk is so low. also, remember andrew speaker from 2007, the man who got on a plane, flew internationally with tuberculosis? went back and followed up and there was no evidence any passengers got sick from that flight, either. again, the risk is low here, it seems. >> that's good to know. sanjay, let me recommend once again, cnn.com, an excellent article by our own dr. sanjay gupta. information you, all of our viewers, need to know. thanks, sanjay. >> thanks, wolf. when we come back, the vice
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president joe biden takes the world stage on a critical trip overseas. will he deliver for the white house? and a prominent republican senator charges the obama administration has quote, taken lying to a new level. did his comments go too far? stay with us. you're in "the situation room." at verizon. let's go... let's go... let's go... let's go! make it your first stop for the gifts everybody wants. let's go! move it, move it, move it! verizon cyber monday is here. get the samsung galaxy note ii for just $49.99. with features like pop-up play. lets you use any app while watching video. or use the s pen for hand-written notes. hurry in or shop online. sale ends monday night. getting our best cyber monday savings. that's powerful. verizon.
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the vice president joe biden in asia with stops in japan, china and south korea, all on his itinerary. but the trip comes at a very, very sensitive moment. let's talk about that and more with our chief political analyst, gloria borger and our cnn political commentator, david frum. this is a very sensitive time. china now wanting to expand its territory -- air territory, if you will, making all sorts of threats. north korea holding two americans right now. he's got a full plate ahead of him. >> he does. the fact that the vice president has to do this personally is another demonstration of how obsolete our pacific security architecture is. these countries have relationships with the united states. there is not a coherent way to
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harmonize the security interests of democratic allies, japan, south korea, taiwan, which has this semi-strange existence. it's like a hub and spoke system. the united states is the hub, these are all in the spokes and the vice president of the united states has to fly over to coordinate it. that's not the way this kind of business should be done. >> you know the vice president, i know the vice president, he was chairman of the senate foreign relations committee for 30 or 35 years, in the senate foreign policy was his biggest issue. he knows these subjects. he's have been experienced in them. he would be a good emissary. >> i think so. people tend to underestimate him this way. he does have the foreign policy experience. he's also very much a kind of one-on-one politician. what he's going over there to do is to defuse what is a toxic situation, and he's kind of the crisis manager. we've seen him perform this role -- >> i wouldn't say this in a way that's disrespectful. this should be handled at a lower pay grade. you may need the vice president to go talk to the chinese but to
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integrate a response from south korea and japan with the united states, that should be something that happens on the phone every day with lower level officials and it doesn't happen. >> it doesn't, and clearly this environment right now is very, very difficult. >> here's what he's trying to do. he's trying to send a powerful signal, the obama administration, to china and north korea. if you send a lower level person out there, that signal is going to be missed. they understand when the vice president tells the japanese, south koreans, hey, this is what's going on and then he goes and meets with the chinese, that has a much more powerful impact. >> how about flying the b-52s over? that sent a very strong signal as well. >> you also want to send a strong message to north korea right now. >> we need a northwest pacific treaty organization that has memberships including taiwan that is able to act coherently as an alliance with the united states not having to be the point of contact every time. we need collective security, not -- >> don't forget, this administration's foreign policy has been the pivot to asia. this has been their, you know, number one priority until it
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wasn't, right? >> right. >> i think it behooves the vice president to go over there -- >> thepivoting to asia means it the end of the cold war, the soviet union is not our biggest single foreign policy challenge. it is china. it's not as dangerous as the soviet union was, more ambiguous kind of situation but we need a security architecture. that's what the pivot to asia should mean. >> it's important for the vice president as well because this vice president may run for president one day. this role, this trip is going to be very important. we'll see how it turns out for him. >> let me put up on the screen a quote from senator john cornyn. he said something else in jim acosta's piece. this is what he said the other day. he said on a google hangout i think the current administration, meaning the obama administration, has taken lying to a new level. he was referring to benghazi, obama care, all sorts of stuff, but should a high-ranking leader
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of the republican minority in the senate, one of the leaders, be throwing around that word lying when he's talking about the president and his administration? >> well, this is maybe why you shouldn't hang out on google. people make mistakes in social media. i don't know that every remark i have ever made in my life has been perfect so i'm not going to complain if somebody else occasionally let one slip in. >> he is a leader in the senate so you have the senate leader mitch mcconnell who said his number one goal was to defeat president obama, right? >> that's not abusive. >> then you have cornyn, who by the way is up for re-election, although he doesn't seem to have a serious tea party challenger, saying that the president is a liar. and you know, you wonder why things don't get done in congress. well -- >> usually they are a little more polite than using that word. >> but you know, those google machines, the typing goes in very fast and it's there forever. >> what did he mean? what did he mean?
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>> let's hope he means i shouldn't have said that, i'm sorry. >> misleading, maybe. all right. we'll leave it. >> he meant what he said, i think. >> guys, thanks. up next, an elderly american veteran supposedly confesses for crimes during the korean war. is he forced to make this apology by the north koreans? plus, cnn on the front lines right now in syria's civil war. our own cnn crew gets rare access to one of the most brutal conflicts on the planet right now. there are seniors who have left hundreds of dollars of savings on the table by not choosing the right medicare d plan. no one could have left this much money here. whoo-hoo-hoo! yet many seniors who compare medicare d plans realize they can save hundreds of dollars. cvs/pharmacy wants to help you save on medicare expenses.
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new video surfacing of an 85-year-old american war veteran detained in north korea, now apologizing for alleged crimes including killings during the korean war. it's all raising more important questions about whether the whole thing has been forced. our pentagon correspondent barbara starr is getting new
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information. she's joining us now with details. barbara, what are you learning? >> reporter: well, wolf, swedish diplomats have visited this elderly veteran to bring him his heart medication, but of course, his family wants him home. >> -- killed three innocent -- >> reporter: north korean state media released video of detained american tourist, 85-year-old merrill newman reading a handwritten apology. >> and u.s. and western countries, there is misleading information and propaganda. >> reporter: newman admits he's guilty of big crimes when he fought for the u.s. in the korean war and now 60 years later, planning to try to meet up with anti-communist guerillas but was he coerced in a confession? >> the two biggest signs are the imperfect english in the statement as it was read by an american. the second sign is all the language that praises the regime. i think both of these things are
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dead giveaways that it wasn't written by newman. >> reporter: newman's case is especially concerning due to his age and because no one is sure what north korea is up to. >> the thing that's most disturbing is that they seem to have racheted up the situation by going after somebody who has no particular cause for being detained in north korea and then holding him without explanation for over a month. >> reporter: american kenneth bay also held for over a year by north korea. his sister told cnn his convictions might have gotten him in trouble. >> he is a strong christian, a man of faith. i think his wanting to help and share that i think might have been interpreted as having hostile intentions. >> reporter: in the past, north korea has released americans after visits by prominent dignitaries. a propaganda victory in the eyes of the regime. >> 30 hours ago, euna lee and i
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were prisoners in north korea. >> reporter: journalist laura ling and euna lee spent 140 days in captivity after being charged with illegal entry. former president bill clinton secured their release in 2009. now, u.s. officials and family members are being very careful, of course, not to say anything that could jeopardize the situation of the americans being held by the north koreans. wolf? >> let's hope both of them are released soon. thanks very much, barbara. just ahead, rare access to the front lines of the battle for damascus. cnn takes you to the heart of syria's bloody civil war. plus, an interesting gift choice. what the israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu gave to pope francis today. ♪
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let's go to syria where a bloody and brute at civil war
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rages on. cnn's fred pleitgen got rare access on the front lines of that battle in the most critical city. >> reporter: it's a war of snipers in this damascus suburb. .. we're on the front lines with government forces. sources say their mission is to stop rebels from vancil. it's pretty much every day they try to attack our positions, they say. it happens in the morning, the afternoon, the evening at night and when we see them. we shoot. they are in the buildings only a few yards away. this is what it looks like when the army releases it on the other side. soldiers gave us this video, that show us attacking rebels as they try to fortify one of their positions. this area is deeply scarred by the war, and heavy clashes could
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be heard from neighboring districts where the syrian army is on the offensive. as you can see, this area was pretty destroyed in the fighting. the front line has been static, as the government wins back more territory, rebel fighters are fleeing, and there have been increased battles recently. it's at part of the battle for the outskier of today mass curl. the syrian army has won a lot of territory in recent weeks, but opposition forces, often led by islamic brigades have also claimed some gains? suburbs. the commander in this district, who we can't identify, says there's a lot of foreign jihadists among the ranks. >> we have foreign fighters from other countries which are leaders, especially from countries like libya, chechnya,
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afghanistan, back stan. >> reporter: while parts of this area having totally destroyed. life continues for some residence close to the line, but the commander says it could be a while before the military could regain the upper hand. >> it could take some time, maybe weeks, maybe months. i can't give you correct time. >> reporter: as the battle for the suburbs rages, the soldiers continue their mission to hold the line. fred pleitgen, cnn, damascus. the israeli prime minister paid a visit to the vatican today, meeting with pope francis. the two leaders discussed hope for a possible peace agreement in the middle east. they also exchanged gifts, the prime minister presenting the pope with a silver menorah, and a book on the spanish
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inquisition written by his father, jews under arrest had to convert to christianity in spain or face expulsion in 1492. the pope, by the way, gave him a bronze sculpture of st. paul. pope francis is scheduled to visit israel in may. coming up, trapped 100 feet under water for nearly three days, unbelievable video of the rescue is just surfacing. jeanne moos will have that. at the top of the hour, is you are "survivor" stories from the deadly train crash in new york city. farmer: hello, i'm an idaho potato farmer.
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and our giant idaho potato truck is still missing. so my dog and i we're going to go find it. it's out there somewhere spreading the good word about idaho potatoes and raising money for meals on wheels. but we'd really like our truck back, so if you see it, let us know, would you? thanks. what?
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before you begin an aspirin regimen. medicare open enrollment.ttack, be sureof year again.ur doctor time to compare plans and costs. you don't have to make changes. but it never hurts to see if you can find better coverage, save money, or both. and check out the preventive benefits you get after the health care law. open enrollment ends december 7th. so now's the time. visit medicare.gov or call 1-800-medicare pulled to safety after being trapped for nearly three days. the mesmerizing video, and jeanne moos has the unbelievable details. >> reporter: when it tugboat cap sized off the coast of africa, it was thought a dozen men
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drowned. so imagine when a rescue diver searching the tug felt a hand. what was shocking, he thought it was a hand belonging to a corpse. >> exactly. >> reporter: then the hand grabbed him. watch the reaction of a diver and supervisor on the surface. >> what's that? okay. all right. you found one, yeah? he's alive! he's alive. >> reporter: for the diver. >> he said it was one of the most terrifying moments under water. >> reassure him. pat him on the shoulder, as they surfaced in an air pocket. 29-year-old harrison had been under water for 2 1/2 days. the survivor was in the toilet when the tug cap sized. it left him trapped in a four-square-foot air pocket. the tug came to a rest upsidedown. it was pitch black.
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his skin was starting to peel. how is that passage to bring him out. is it october? if you're wonder why the voices sound high-pitched. >> that's because they're breathing helium/oxygen mix. >> you mustn't panic, all right? >> they gave him a helmet, though he had no experience diving. what's your name? >> harrison. >> i'm going to bring you home, okay? >> it was even are a moment of dark humor. >> what is your rank? you're the cook? >> yes, sir. >> one survived. harrison? >> yes. >> okay. you're going to follow nickel, okay? >> he was exceptionally calm. we're going now. hut your head under water and breathe comfortable. >> it took a little less than half an hour. if the story sounds familiar, it's because the accident happened back in may, but only now has the video surfaced accompanied by what at first
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seems like incongruous music, until you recognize it as the theme from "the great escape." harrison spent the next two days in a decompression chamber, returned to nigeria in good shape. you can bet neither man will ever forget the handshake that left both shaken. >> he's alive, he's a life. >> reporter: jeanne moos, cnn, new york. happening now. >> train terror, new details on what may have caused the deadly derailment. a survivors shares her story, the screeching metal and injuries all around her. plus fast and fatal. with new questions about the fiery car crash which killed the actor paul walker. could it have been a scene out of the "fast & furious" movies he started? and amazon unveils plans to
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air-drop orders at your door using drones? what could go wrong? experts tell us, a lot. i'm wolf blitzer, you're in "the situation room." federal authorities now confirm that a new york commuter train was going way too fast just before it hurdled arou hur around the curve. it was barreling down the track at 82 miles an hour into a 30-mile-an-hour curve. the question now -- was human error or mechanical problem to blame? with the crash that killed four people and injured dozens. cnn's rene marsh is following the story. what's the latest? >> we now know the ntsb have already started interviewing one of the engineers from that train. we also know, based on preliminary data from the train's event recorders, we now know how fast this train was
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going, but we still don't know why. just one day into the vase and a startling revelation. >> this is preliminary information from the event recorders, shows the train was traveling at approximately 82, as it went into a 30-mile-an-hour curve. >> reporter: speed caused the crash, but why was it going so fast? mechanical problem or human error? it's too early to tell. we do know 82 miles per hour is too fast for the approach which had a speed limit of 70. power to the engine was not cut, and brakes did not apply until seconds before the train came to a stop, far too late. >> we are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the brakes. >> reporter: the engineer told investigators he tried to brake, but the train didn't stop, according to a law enforcement officials. he appeared coherent, another official said, but drug and alcohol tests were conducted.
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>> be advised we have multiple rescues in progress at this time. >> reporter: monday investigators continued examining the track, train cars in searching for video. metro north says this train did not have cameras on board. sunday's derailment along the curve wasn't far from where this freight train derailed in july. the ntsb is investigating if there's a connection between the two, but new york's governor doesn't -- >> trains negotiate the turn all day long, so it's not about the turn. something else had to happen. we want to find out what it is. >> reporter: this may two net rho north trains collided. damaged trach may have caused the crash. also in may, a metro north train struck and killed a track foreman. >> we'll be looking at precursor events, things that maybe were close calls that could have given metro north some indication this was an area they needed to pay attention to. >> reporter: the crash has
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heightened interest in positive train controls, high-tech systems using signals capable of detecting problems, slowing trains, even bringing them to a stop. congress mandated the systems by the end of 2015. all right. so, wolf, just last hour, when you were speaking to ntsb board member weener, he told me something that was not in the press meeting, that the train was going 60 miles per hour two minutes before the crash, also going 60 miles an hour before it approached that curve. that shows that perhaps this train was accelerating instead of slowing down. as we know the curve speed limit was 30 miles an hour, so acceleratic from 60 to 82 miles an hour and shouldn't have been going more than 30. now they have to figure out whether it was a mechanical problem or whether it was a human error. they haven't come to that conclusion yet. rene, thanks very much.
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at least 67 people were hurt in that train crash. an additional 47 -- excuse me t. four people as we've been reporting were killed. we have pictures of what's going on at the scene. we're learning more about the injuri injuries, the hairoing stories. nic robertson is on the scene. he's joining us. we have the story of one of those survivors, a doctor who's been treating the victims. knick, what are you seeing and learning? >> wolf. we've been talking to people and they're beginning to relive the tram, and also counting their blessings, and at the same time searches for answers. insigh is the train, amanda swanson took this picture. i just rode into where i was technically on the ceiling. >> reporter: a day later in the calm of the studios she
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grappling with her luck on the way to work. she had been asleep. >> i became aware of the screeching metal. i realized this is a train crash and this is happening right now. >> reporter: she called the police before taking the picture, then began realizing the trauma around her. >> i started listening, looking around, seeing people wobbling about. i could hearing moans, other people assisting other passengers. >> the trauma bay was full. >> reporter: in a hospital not far away, e.r. veteran dr. list man's trauma was just beginning. >> the most critically injured patient and the one we think about the most was the gentleman who had the cervical spine injury, who's going to have most certainly have severe neurologic injury. >> reporter: paralyzed? >> probably paralyzed. hopefully he'll have use of his arms. >> reporter: the patient is in critical condition. if that's not hard enough, he had been traveling with his 14-year-old son. >> i was actually told the son
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was sleeping and the father was awake. i don't know if he was up and around, you know, if he was trying in any way to protect his son as the crash happened. >> reporter: luckily the boy escaped with just cuts and bruises, bus his mother told listman he takes the train to school every day, and she doesn't know how he's going to do it now. >> i said to her, i have no answer for you today. i can only imagine sort of how difficult it's going to be the first time he has to get back on the train. i don't know if he'll ever be able to do that, or if every day it's going to remind him of idea and, you know, his father who's alive, but whose life is permanently changed. >> reporter: dr. listman and amanda swanson, so thankful for small miracles, but still so many questions. >> it's hard to understand how they were sitting next to each other on the train and sort of, you know, the son walks away
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with minor bruises, and the father sustains such a severe injury. >> i told my mom this morning the only thing i was thinking is i have to stay alive. >> reporter: and for everyone involved really until the full results of the investigation is known, it's going to be a matter for them of whether they were just lucky or just unfortunate, wolf. >> what a heartbreaking story, instead. on the scene for us. still ahead, a series of movies about illegal street racing. authority expects paul walker's need for speed may have led to his best. we have the latest. amazon.com changed online shopping. now wants to further revolutionize package delivery by using drones. experts are telling us if it's a realistic idea or is it pie in the sky? ♪
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norse are now focusing on speed as the crash. walker described himself as a speed demon. he played that out on the screen. he was in a porsche when the car crashed. we have the latest. what are you learning? >> reporter: the latest information we're getting from detectives is they are moving away from the possibility of street racing being involved, because at this point they have no evidence that a second car was involved. meanwhile, here at what is certainly a growing memorial, he is being remembered business his
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co-stars, hi family, and his many fans. to the engines of the fast cars of his fans, mourners weeping, carrying flowers and candles to the accident site where actor paul walker died. this is one of the last photos of walker, attending a charity event to help victims of the philippines' typhoon before he and his racing partner left in a porn. it slammed into a light pole and burst into flames. this man tried to do to walker and rodas. there was nothing. we tried. we went think five extinguishers. >> reporter: fellow tyrese gibson paid respects. to his family, walker was the father of a 15-year-old girl, a son devoted to his father. >> i'm just glad every time i saw him i told him i loved him, and he said the same.
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>> reporter: to fans, they have lost a blockbuster, the star of the "fast and furious" franchise that spanned more than a decade. >> i grew up watching him, and he was so why this. >> reporter: lime imitating art. >> in hollywood, they never get hurt, they're always driving fast, you know, and in reality, we do have to be concerned. we have to be concerned. this could happen to any of us. we have to follow the rules, follow the speed. a lot of them are handwritten, and heartfelt, and as you look at these candles and flowers, there's a bit of a generational divide. people showing up here at this memorial are overwhelmingly one.
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about three trees were taken out before the vehicle hit. as far as the autopsies, they are scheduled for tomorrow. wolf, the embodies were so badly burned in this crash, that dental records will have to be used. >> our deepest condolences to the families. only 40 years old s thank you very much for the report. on this monday, the world's largest retailer says it's testing a wild new way to deliver small packages to your home s imagine a drone dropping your order down at your front door. it sounds like a lot of science fiction, but amazon believes -- is this for real, ryan? >> wolf, jeff bezos is touting this as if it's very real. he says in four or five years, he hopes to be able to get your order to your door with a drone within a half hour after you place it.
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he's made point, click and shop a huge part of our lives. now amazon's ceo is promising delivery by drone. he unveiled his plan to cbs' "60 minutes". >> these are octocopters, but there's no reason they could be use as delivery vehicles. >> reporter: she says the vehicles they're developing can carry objects weighing up to five pounds, which he says covers 86% of the items they deliver. they can fly within 10 miles of any distribution center and they would be autonomous. that means no operator with a joystick. they'll program the coordinates of your house and it will fly there. but there are all sorts of potential pitfalls like how will they safeguard against from veers off-course and hitting us in the head? how will they avoid unknown obstacles on the roof? caitlin lee is a uav expert with
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ihs janes. what else can go wrong? >> jamming. >> reporter: hacking? >> hacking. trying to take down the system, just cutting on off the signal. weather even dogs the u.s. military uavs in combat. i think there's also the potential for these things getting shot down. >> reporter: then there's the accuracy question. will the package be dropped at your book door or end up on the roof? could it be stoleling? if those obstacles are overcome, are we going to be living out the old cartoon "the jetsons" with future risic vehicles taking up our airspace? experts say that's a long way away. first xwe southeast has to have american law on his side. right now the faa doesn't allow drones to be flown for commercial purposes or outside the operator's line of sight. in 2015, the faa will have new regulations. that kind of drone flying might be allowed.
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>> they have to sure that the operators have sensitive weight capabilities, that the aircraft can deflect the airspace, and also that the operators are operating in a way to ensure they are not flying in the route of manned aircraft or over airports. >> reporter: the use of drone deliveries for this time of commerce, rather, is drawing serious concern on capitol hill. senator jay rockefeller says he will hold hearings to look at the potential benefits, but also at the potential rbis released on the eve of the biggest shopping spree. what are you hearing about? >> i did have amazon reps xw that. >> reporter: a lot of people think this is a publicity stunt. they never really responded. as you pointed out, he does it on the eve of cybermonday. a lot of drone experts are
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saying there's so many potential safety, security, privacies issues, logistical problems, they don't think it will ever by available on any kind of widespread delivery motor. >> you never know. we'll see. thanks very much. just ahead, she lost her leg in the boston marathon bombing. now she is not only walking again, but doing it in very high heels. she's sharing her emotional recovery of recovery and hope. [ tires screech ] ♪
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nearly eight months after losing part of her leg in the boston marathon bombings, one victim will wow you with her very dramatic progress. poppy harlow joins us with her incredible story. poppy, what happened here? >> it is amazing, just like she did every year on april 15th, heather abbott went to the red sox game and then went on to cheer the runners in the bothen
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marathon, but she was one of the victims of the attack. today she is a strong survivor. she had to have part of her left leg amputated, but the progress is stunning, and you just have to see it to believe it. >> i didn't look at it at all from, you know, the moment that it happened. >> reporter: heather abbott is talking about her left leg, amputated after the boston bombing president she wanted to remember it the way it was, before. you call yourself a professional heel wearer? >> i think i did. >> reporter: and today she is again, walking on 4-inch stilettos on her prosthetic leg. nothing short of miraculous. take a close look. can you tell which one is manmade? >> i with go out in public with part of my leg exposed, nothing is staring at it, because they can't tell you. you can see where there's
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shaving marks where somebody would have shaved. >> reporter: the cosmetic color color matched down to the freckles and creases on her heel. she has four prosthetic legs. >> this is my waterproof leg. i wear this one in the shower. >> reporter: this one for running, another for flats, another for high heels. >> i feel like my old self. >> reporter: she had no idea she would get this far until her advocate walked in. >> she walked in with high heels and skinny jeans, and i couldn't tell which leg was real and which wasn't. it helped me think, okay, i'm going to be able to do this. >> reporter: the priority is how am i going to walk? beyond that is sort of a female rite of passage. how do i feel sexy? how do i wear a bathing suit?
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i think those are all very normal questions. >> reporter: it feels like skin. >> some of the most cosmetic concerns, i wasn't as vocal about, because they seemed sort of insignificant at the time. >> reporter: were you sort of embarrassed to ask? >> yes. asking if i could wear a dress again didn't seem like an appropriate question. >> reporter: but it is, and here's why. >> for heather, having a highly coals met sick cover that matches her remaining leg was essential to her recovery. she is now able, and has the confident. this isn't the norm, though, for most amputees. not by a long shot, with highly prosthetics not covered by insurance. for heather it was a combination of insurance and donations. do you think everyone should be able to have a limb like this and covered by insurance? >> yeah, i do. if i couldn't have a leg that look like my own, i don't know that i would have recovered as well.
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it's upsetting to me that there are other men and women out there that aren't able to have a leg that looks like their own leg, if that's what they want. >> reporter: just to give you some perspective here, wolf, the four prosthetics that she has, she estimates the cost together about $200,000. she's going to have to replace them every three to five years. that gives you a sense of the scope of the price, how expensive these are and the fact that oftentimes they are not covered by insurance. that is why she and so many others are fighting, saying, look it's not about how these look, they're very important to feel like yourself once again. so she'll be fighting for that, but kudos to her and the amazing recovery. >> kudos indeed, very amazing. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. "crossfire" starts right now. tonight on "crossfire", hearing the president's second-term blues, the website
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is up and running better. is president obama on the left. van jones, on the right newt gingrich. bill burton, and bon you recallic, the former republic governor of maryland. three more years. will president obama bounce back? on the crossfire. welcome to "crossfire." i'm van jones on the left. >> i'm newt gingrich on the right. in the crossfire, a white house veteran and state house veteran. in today ace daily briefing, the white house continued to glorify the 80% succeeds rate of the government's health care website. let's put that in normal american context. for a teenager working at mcdonald's 80% accuracy gets you
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fired that day. for an airline pilot, 80% accuracy and landing at the right airport gets you fired that day. only the government and this at mrgs would call a sunday press event, claiming the health care website is 80% accurate and expect applause. actually we're getting a tutorial in the disastrous results of -- >> you just -- we can't do it. please, we're making progress, but you're always bragging on the private sector. i want to point out that today bestbuy.com was down while healthcare.gov was up. even the private sector is not perfect. we're making progress, and i'm proud of it. we have bill burton, who used to work in the obama white house, and we have the former governor from maryland, bob you recall c ehrlich.